Monday, November 02, 2015

Hike to a Lime Kiln

At least that's what I think it is. I could be wrong. I don't think there's a lot of limestone out here, but there could be some, I suppose. Anyway, somebody told me about this and about where it is and I think they told me what it is but I can't find that conversation. I wish I could so I could let him know I finally made it out there and so he could confirm if it is a lime kiln.

So somebody told me about this thing and I searched for it on Google Earth and found a likely candidate and stuck a push pin in it and thought for a couple of years about how long a hike it would be to get out there. Then last Friday I decided I could reduce the hike by at least a couple of miles by wading across the Salt River instead of using the bridge. I did that once before on another hike. I wore sandals made for use in water that time. It was a little chancy going up the far bank in sandals, though, what with all the cacti and rattlers around. On Saturday morning I decide to go down to the river and see if it would be as easy to cross as I suspected.

There were only 2 horses in the area when I got to the river. The flow of water from Stewart Mountain dam is cut in October because the Salt River tubing season is over. All those rocks in the foreground would normally be under water but are exposed because the flow was dropped last week.

You can kind of tell where the water was in this photo.

I went to the place that was my first choice from crossing the river and decided that it was too wide. I didn't pay much attention to how deep it was but probably should have. I made my way over to my second choice but it took me a long time to get there because I kept stopping to take pictures of birds.

This is how birds fish.

These birds are cuter.

I don't normally take pictures of birds but I got a new lens a couple of months ago that enables me to zoom in enough to get decent pictures. That lens is not suitable for landscape photography, though, and that's the kind of photos I most like to take. So am I changing lenses while I'm out hiking? What, and get all that desert dust in my camera?!? No. I carry two cameras. I got a new camera in January and BTW it is the heaviest camera I have ever owned. I kept my old camera and put the new lens on it. The new lens, BTW, is the heaviest lens I have ever owned. So now I'm carrying 2 instruments for taking pictures and each one is heavy. Have you ever put two camera straps around your neck? Having two heavy cameras strapped to your neck can make hiking difficult for lots of reasons besides impeding breathing, though that is certainly one of the top reasons. Fortunately, I stumbled across a solution to carrying the cameras a few weeks ago. They are something called "capture clips" made by Peak Design. I put them on my backpack straps and hang the cameras there. It's a little awkward having two large heavy things on my chest but it beats being strangled.

Me with cameras attached, and a bonus Halloween decoration.

OK, so I'm looking at my second possible location for crossing the river and I think it looks a little deeper than I would like if I was to try crossing it with my hiking boots on. I've splashed through this river a few times with these boots and they do seem to be water proof, as advertised, so I decide to see if the water is too deep. I think it was about half an inch too deep. One of the most distressing feelings I know is that of water coming over the top of your shoe and down into your shoe. It's right down there with hitting your brakes and then realizing that you are on ice. It was only a few steps to get across, though, and it didn't get any deeper, so I kept going. When I got out of the water and up the other bank, it felt like the water had only seeped down to my heels and had not formed puddles in my boots. Puddles in boots is one of the few things that feels worse that water coming over the tops of your boots. I decided that since I was across, I might as well keep going.

The ground is unusually bare in this area. I think that may have something to do with the nature of the soil. There are no rocks in this soil. Every time I have come across soil without rocks in this desert, it has very few plants in it.

I got the feeling that few people visit this area these days. There were many dead trees that had not been chopped up for firewood. Also, there were few beer cans or shot gun shells.

I wandered slowly in the direction I thought I should go to get to the suspected kiln. I had a 4G signal out there and figured I could check Google Earth if I couldn't find it, but it would be more fun to wander around and see what I could see.

I felt like I should be getting close to the kiln so I decided to climb this small hill and see if I could spot it.

Almost at the hill ...

... when I look to my left and see this.

This matches descriptions of lime kilns that I've read.

At the same time that I got to the kiln, the Red Baron flew in and started doing aerial stunts. I used to see this plane frequently while hiking but haven't seem it much the past few years.

I hung out there for a while taking pictures of the kiln and of the Red Baron. I decided to climb the hill even though I had already found my destination. It was during this climb that I concluded that hiking in wet socks is a lot less fun than hiking in dry socks. The hill was actually the end of a ridge. There were cairns on the ridge and a very faint trail. I couldn't resist. I followed the trail for almost half a mile before I decided the sun was getting low enough that I should turn back.

Looking along the ridge.

As is common in this area, one of Sheriff Joe's fancy helicopters flew by. It was doing some wild maneuvers to follow the path of the river. Maybe the pilot was trying to impress the female you can see in the front seat. I wonder how many of these helicopters Maricopa County could have purchased for the cost of all of Sheriff Joe's lost lawsuits.

I don't think the trail goes anywhere but the desert is pretty.

Large rocks.

As I strolled along the top of the ridge, I thought about how I used to run through the shallow water at the beach in Texas. When your foot comes down, it pushes the water out, and you lift your foot up for the next step before the water rushes in to cover it. I wondered if I could use that technique to cross the river. It might be tricky running over a bunch of slippery boulders that you can't really see very well, though. I decided to try it and was quickly reminded of how, when one foot splashes down, the other leg gets drenched. At least I didn't get as much water in my boots. I need to find a better way to cross the river. Stilts?

Map of the hike.

Click below to see all of the pictures. I took over 200 but narrowed it down some.


Monday, March 09, 2015

Dome Mountain

A view of Dome Mountain.

There are only a couple of mountains in Bulldog Canyon OHV area that I know of that have names. Dome Mountain is one of them. (The other is Lone Mountain.) It's also the highest peak there. I've thought about climbing it for years, but not seriously, because every view I had of it made it look like it couldn't be climbed without doing some actual rock climbing. I was just wandering around in October of 2010 and got pretty close to the peak and thought I saw a route to the top, but it hadn't been easy getting as far as I did and the rest of the route looked difficult, so I continued to wimp out.

This is a view of Four Peaks from what I consider to be the halfway point. It's as far as I had gotten in 2010.

As usual, I was off work for a couple of weeks over the Christmas holiday. As is not usual, I didn't have anything but hiking planned. I was thinking about climbing Picketpost Mountain again and spending most of the two weeks gearing up to do that. I was going on long (for me) hikes with a lot of elevation gain to prepare and decided to go up to the halfway point again for the exercise. The first time I had been up there, there was a very faint trail. This time the trail was more pronounced and as I approached the halfway point, there were frequent cairns and even some white paint marks.

A cairn and a couple of paint stripes are visible in this photo.

At the halfway point.

I followed the trail up from the halfway point for a quarter mile or so, but I didn't have enough daylight, water, or snacks to go all the way to the top then. It looked like somebody had marked a trail all the way to the top, though, so I knew it could be done. I decided to concentrate on getting to the top of Dome Mountain instead of climbing Picketpost again because every time I looked at Picketpost I felt dread. Picketpost is a very steep and long hike and I wasn't looking forward to how much I would ache afterwards. I wanted perfect weather when I climbed Dome Mountain; no gloomy clouds. Perfect conditions arose on December 30.

Looking toward the Superstition Mountains from about 3/4 of the way up. There's a little haziness (pollution) in the air and it's the middle of the day, so I blame the blah-ness of the photo on that.

You can see how I really slowed down near the top in this plot of speed and elevation. It was steep and I was gasping for air. I was also going very slow in that area on the way down because it was steep and I didn't want to slip and land on a cholla.

The climb was uneventful except for the very nice views all around. I wandered around the top eating snacks, taking pictures, and relaxing until I was bored. The hike down was exciting as all steep descents on scree-covered rock are. My butt made unintentional contact with the ground only once.

The top of Dome Mountain.

From the halfway point back to the parking spot can be tricky. The cairns and paint are harder to follow in that direction. When I was up there on the 23rd I got off-trail and couldn't see how to get back to where I needed to be. I had to backtrack quite a ways. This is a warning to anybody else that heads up there. Come back in daylight and keep making sure you on on the correct route or you'll be stuck out there in the dark, which won't be so bad as long as you have a blanket and the mountain lion isn't looking for easy prey.

I made a couple of 360 panoramas from the top but they must be too many pixels. None of my viewing software can display them and I can't upload them. I'll put them on my Photosynth page someday.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The 2014 monsoon rains

We had a very wet summer in the Sonoran Desert. It was the seventh wettest monsoon season since records have been kept. People that have lived here for 30 years says it the most rain they've ever seen. All those storms mean that there were some great photo opportunities, and on a couple of occasions I was even in the right place at the right time, and even had my camera with me.

A storm moved in while I was in Bulldog Canyon. I thought I had heard a screaming animal out there a couple of days before and had returned to find the body (but the only body I found was a dead saguaro). I have since decided that somebody is hunting mountain lions out there.

Great clouds mean some great sunsets.

I was out in the middle of a relatively flat area south of Florence Junction when I took this. You can see dust being kicked up on the left of the photo and a column of rain on the right.

This looked really ominous. I was worried I might be trapped in mud so I hurried to pavement. Turns out the rain never got to where I had been.

I stopped to get a picture of the rain falling on the Superstition Mountains and accidentally got a lightning bolt.

There was a great sunset going on at the same time in the other direction. I kept going back and forth across the road to get pictures of both.

It looks like it's probably raining pretty hard over there.

I hung around after sunset to get some lightning pictures.

This is a normally dry wash a couple of miles east of Tortilla Flat. There were some small waterfalls there but my pictures of them weren't any good. I decided I need to get an ND filter.

Yes, all the storms were great for pictures, but there were a couple of drawbacks, too. On several occasions I gave up on taking pictures because the bugs were so bad. Mostly they were gnats but once when I was on top of Lone Mountain some termites chased me away. Termites often swarm during the monsoon rains. Thousands of winged termites leave the colony to start new colonies. They have no interest in people but when there are so many in the air at once, the can't help landing on you. After a while it's just too creepy with all those bugs in your shirt (they always seem to fall into my shirt).

Just about every day, everywhere I went, there were nice clouds. This was taken northeast of Roosevelt Lake.

The other drawback to all the rain was, of course, the humidity. I decided to get serious about losing some weight this year and was frequently climbing Lone Mountain to burn some calories. The sweat dripping off my face created my own little salty rainstorm. It was a pretty mild summer temperature wise, though. There was only about one week when it got over 110. The humidity hung around long after the storms left. It was only during the past week that it seemed to return to normal. (I noticed because my knuckles cracked and bled when I made a fist.)

Winged termites leaving the nest. Photo taken on top of Lone Mountain.

I took a lot of pictures of Four Peaks from the top of Lone Mountain during the summer.

There were more flowers than usual during the summer.

One day I thought I was going to hike out to Apache Leap, east of Superior. There were storm clouds building over the valley but I didn't think they would affect me. Fortunately, I had forgotten where the trail was and wimped out because of the humidity. A very heavy storm moved through shortly after I got back on the pavement.

Even when it din't rain, there were nice clouds around. In order to keep burning calories, I was out hiking and getting pictures several times a week.

One day I tried to drive out to White Canyon Wilderness, south of Superior. The road seemed to be badly eroded by water, but the ocotillos didn't have leaves, and the ground was dry. Seemed very strange. Couldn't get to the wilderness so I went over to the Ray mine for a look and got a picture of this storm building. It evaporated shortly after I took this.

There are horses running loose around the Salt River. I suspect they were set free there by people that couldn't afford them any more when the economy took a dive. Anyway, I see their tracks all over the place but usually only see them at the river. I was wandering around Bulldog Canyon one day, a mile from the river, and came across 3 horses. Wouldn't wild horses run away from a human? These kept an eye on me but went about their usual business.

I climbed a tall butte near canyon lake. There were nice fluffy clouds all around. From on top you can see the Superstition Mountains, Four Peaks, Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, and lots of other landmarks. I got a nice 360 panorama. It's on my Panoramio page.

The only waterfall I've seen since I got the ND filter is by our pool.

I've come across several things I wanted to write a blog about over the past few weeks but didn't have time with all the hiking and picture processing. Maybe I'll catch up now that the sun sets so early.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Sometimes I use Google Earth to zoom in on parts of the desert that look like they are probably boring and search around for something interesting. I was doing that a few months ago and found what looked like concentric circles carved into the desert floor. They were faded and barely visible. They were much too circular to have been made by yahoos on ATVs. The outer-most circle is about 0.2 mile in diameter.

Screenshot of Google Earth showing the concentric circles.

Of course, the reason for looking for something like that is so I can go investigate. I went out there the first time on a day that it was too hot to do any climbing. It was almost too hot to walk around on mostly level ground. The temperature was only about 102 when I started out, and it was close to sunset, but I had to drink a lot of water. I misread my GPS receiver and thought I was only half a mile from the center of the circles when I started out. Actually, I was almost 2 miles away. It was close to sunset when I realized my mistake. I was only 0.2 mile from the center then but I figured it could be difficult to find the truck in that flat, featureless area in the dark so I turned back.

I went by a saguaro with a beehive in it.

A droopy saguaro skeleton. Picture taken well after sunset.

I went back about a week later. I went a little earlier and it was cooler and I had a plan for getting closer to the circles before I got out of the truck. It's monsoon season, though. There were some large clouds growing east of my destination. I kept going even though I might not get to the circles again. It would be cool to be in a rainstorm.

Look at the dark wall of rainfall behind this saguaro.

After a while it looked like it was going to rain where I was and since getting there involved driving several miles on dirt roads and because I didn't want to be stuck in mud out there, I turned around when I was about 0.2 mile from the center, again. I could see rain falling on the Superstition Mountains on the way back and stopped with a view of those mountains as the sun set.

The rainbow barely shows up, but I accidentally caught a lightning bolt.

I was there for about 30 minutes getting pictures of the storm and the sunset in the other direction.

It was a very pretty sunset.

The storm was awesome, too.

There was even lightning.

The very next day I made my third attempt to get to the circles. As I walked toward the center of the circles, I imagined that maybe it was some sort of ancient American Indian site, used for astronomy and to predict when crops should be sown or harvested and other such things. The American equivalent of Stonehenge. I would be famous for discovering it.

At 0.1 mile from the center, I saw a couple of pieces of metal and wondered what some cowboys had disposed of out there. I took a few steps and saw some more. Then more and more and more. There were pieces of metal all over the place. Many of the pieces were repeated. Lots of 3 inch pieces of pipe with a nut on one end. Lots of U shaped rods. Lots of sheet metal that looked like it had been formed into a cylinder and then smashed into the ground at high speed. Hmm.

Well, you get the idea. Anyway, after looking at dozens of pieces and remembering that that area is sometimes used by the National Guard for practice, I realized that the circles were a target and all the metal was pieces of practice bombs. For several reasons that I won't get into here, I concluded that the practice bombs didn't contain explosives. Then I proceeded to touch or move nothing, just in case my conclusion was wrong. I walked around gingerly for a little while looking for the circles but couldn't see them from the ground. It was a while before I noticed something a little unusual about the target area.

What's missing from this picture of the Sonoran desert?

What do you not see in this picture, either?

Give up? There are no saguaros. They are everywhere else out there, but I could only find one within the target area. I wonder if they were removed before the target was put there or if they were wiped out by target practice. The other plants there could survive damage or re-populate the area in a few decades. It could be a couple of hundred years before there are many saguaros there, though.

There are lots of pictures if you want to look at them all.